cover image A Book of Days

A Book of Days

Patti Smith. Random House, $28.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-593-44854-0

Rock star Smith (Year of the Monkey) unfurls a vibrant photo scrapbook created during the Covid-19 pandemic and inspired by the “exploding collage” of social media culture. The photos include selections from Smith’s personal archive, as well as cellphone snapshots and Polaroids. There is one photo for each day of the year, and the short accompanying text often references cultural figures, whether William S. Burroughs or Greta Thunberg. Smith also recounts moments from her own life, including riding her first bike as a child and outtakes from her 1970s punk heyday. Recurring figures include her late partner, Robert Mapplethorpe, and her daughter, Jesse, who encouraged Smith to join Instagram. The captions often take the form of straightforward descriptions (“The desk of the great writer Jorge Luis Borges lives in the National Library in Buenos Aires”), but Smith’s personal photos provide moments for deeper introspection (“This is my thinking chair. I sit and let it take me where it will, as if it were a small wooden ship”). Below a photo of One World Trade Center, Smith writes, “A city of burning days and consecrated nights, utterly transformed from the New York I once knew.” Wrapped in a nostalgic glow, this will be an inspiration for Smith’s fans. Agent: Betsy Lerner, Dunow, Carlson, & Lerner. (Nov.)